The Amazons: Lives & Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World
Did you walk out of Wonder Woman starring Gal Gadot and want to know everything about Gal Gadot? .... Also everything about the Amazons?
For info on Gal Gadot, look no further than her fantastic instagram (or her wikipedia) (or this amazing recent Rolling Stones profile). But for the Amazons, you'll have to turn to something a bit more substantive: Adrienne Mayor's 400ish-page book The Amazons: Lives & Legends of Warrior Woman Across the Ancient World. And holy crap, I learned so much!! She unpacks the historical truths behind the "Amazons," and breaks down each and every myth about them (no, they did not cut off a breast). For the history nerd (like myself), this was an amazing read -- full of details and stories and everything you could ever want to know about the Amazons. For example, an origin story tale:
These women, says Justin, 'embarked on an enterprise unparalleled in all history,' creating and defending a state without men. They even killed the husbands who ha survived by remaining at home, so that no woman would seem more fortunate than those who had lost their men. Next they avenged their husbands' deaths by destroying the guilty local tribes. In the peace that followed, they had sex with neighboring peoples so that their bloodline would not die out. The Amazons of Pontus killed baby boys and raised the girls to ride horses, kill game and train for combat (48).
The book is divided into four parts: (1) Who Were the Amazons, (2) Historical Women Warriors and Classical Traditions, (3) Amazons in Greek Roman Myth, Legend and History and (4) Beyond the Greek World. I think section 2 was the most fascinating - it dove into their sex lives, what they wore, their tattoos, etc - but all parts were interesting in their own ways. In part 4, tales of warrior women from Persia, Egypt, Caucasia, China, etc. were also fascinating to me: lets talk about all these badass women warriors!
My main critique of the book was the density. It was most likely meant to be a book where you read a chapter for your class; not where you sit down and read the entire thing. So, all the facts & names & places & everything felt very overwhelming in some chapters where there was no clear narrative story. Regardless, it was published by an academic press so I should have expected that.